Rafael Palomo: the bird photographer

Rafael will always remember how he found his passion for nature and, in particular, bird-watching:  “I remember when I got my first binoculars,how much I enjoyed watching animals much more closely, and their behavior. I think it’s something that I will always like to do…”

The hours he has spent following this passion have lead him to have some one-of-a-kind experiences with the animals he photographs. “I became ‘friends’ with a fox, if you can call it that,” he laughs. He tells us how he gained the fox’s trust over repeated visits, and when he arrived in his car the animal came up to greet him. But the story doesn’t end there. “It turned out that the fox was a female and, one day, she took me to her lair where there were five cubs. She even let me photograph them.”

What started out as a mere hobby lead him to join the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/BirdLife). Thanks to his knowledge on fauna, he advised Repsol on projects to be carried out in the surroundings of the Puertollano Industrial Facility.

The bird loft: a refuge for birds

Rafael takes us to his favorite place in the Puertollano facility, the bird loft. In this space, an old industrial plant has been converted into a refuge for local birdlife.

Palomo tells us that when the plant was decommissioned, the birds moved in and, when Repsol decided to dismantle the facility, they asked him for advice on how to create a habitat for these birds that had made the facility their “home sweet home.”

This is now the bird loft. Repsol decided to create a refuge for these birds in 2005 and, today, storks and lesser kestrels live alongside the workers at the Facility.

The Ojailén River: an unexpected oasis full of life

“I have been working at Repsol for 31 years, and the truth is that I have been lucky to be able to combine my working life with my hobby,” Rafael tells us.

It was thanks to Repsol’s support that Rafael was able to produce the book and documentary Río Ojailén, which he considers to be one of his greatest achievements. In this project, he photographed the flora and fauna found in this oasis of life in the middle of La Mancha.

A large portion of the River’s water flow comes from the Puertollano Industrial Facility. The refinery’s treatment process is exhaustive and carefully controlled. This means that the water entering the river is of optimal quality and has created a refuge for flora and fauna in the area, especially in summer when it is the only water point within several miles.

One day, Rafael joined the environmental team of the Puertollano Industrial Facility in their routine water quality checks. He was very surprised to see the large variety of fauna in the river seeing as water is scarce in this area, and he didn’t expect to see so much life. “I wasn’t expecting to see so much life there…the barbels were swimming upstream to lay their eggs, the kingfisher in quick flight, the herons, the cormorants…”

This inspired him to make a book and a documentary to let people know about the habitat that was just a few miles away. When Rafael suggested immortalizing the ecological richness of the Ojailén River, Repsol decided to support this initiative by providing the resources he needed to carry out the project.

Nevertheless, if Rafael is proud of something, it’s of having helped build his colleagues’ awareness of the need to look after the surrounding environment through these projects: “Almost all of my colleagues know me as the ‘bird photographer’ and, well, I’m glad that my passion and all these projects have helped make us all a bit more aware of our surrounding environment.”

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